Sunday, March 27, 2016

I was only telling a lie

My dad was a liar. 

Some of his lies were taken as truth, because, at the time, there was no easy way to fact-check every detail of the stories he told. He told his co-workers that my mother was a school teacher (she wasn't). He told his family that he gave up smoking (he didn't). After my mother died and the opportunity of a new leaf waiting to be turned presented itself, he told a woman he was dating that he was part owner of a supermarket and he was in debt due to the expense of my art school tuition (he wasn't  and he wasn't). He lied, it seemed, as a hobby — the way some people collect stamps or bowl.

One story my father loved to tell was about a no-hitter he saw when he was a kid. He told this story to my brother and me often when we were young. According to my dad, he skipped school to go to a Phillies game. The game turned out to be a rare no-hitter. Afterwards, the city was buzzing with talk about the no-hitter, but my father (who, of course, was a kid at the time) couldn't tell anyone that he was at the game because he would get in big trouble for ditching school. My brother and I were amused by the story. Perhaps there was even a bit of underlying caution in the story — "Don't cut school!" Turns out the only "underlying" about the tale was just plain old "lying." 

See, when this story was told to us (and the many, many times it was repeated), there was no such thing as the internet. It was difficult to quickly check on baseball statistics. One had to own volumes of books chronicling the vast amounts of records from years past. Even then, locating the information would be a task unto itself. But one day, after my father had passed away, I decided to research his claim. Now that I had a computer in my house, this would be a cinch. 

My dad was born in 1926. The closest no-hitter achieved by the Phillies, to that date, was thrown by one Johnny Lush, but that was in 1906, twenty years before my father was born. Plus ol' Johnny tossed that 6-0 gem in Washington Park in Brooklyn, not Philadelphia, against a stunned Trolley Dodgers team. Red Donahue threw a 5-0 no-no against the Boston Beaneaters in Philadelphia, but that was in 1898, before my dad's parents were born. The next Phillies no-hitter was Jim Bunning's perfect game on Father's Day 1964, but by that time, my dad was the father of a seven-year-old (my brother) and a three-year-old (me). His "skipping school" days were long behind him. And that game took place in New York. What I'm trying to say is: My dad made the whole thing up. The whole story! Everything! He probably never even cut school.

As I got older, my mother let me in on the hundreds and hundreds of lies my father told throughout our lives. I developed a keen sensitivity for bullshit and, needless to say, I can spot a liar a mile away.

I had a recent co-worker who, within a week or so of his being hired, told a story during his first "I'm the New Guy" get-to-know-me session with a small contingency of his new colleagues. The informal "get acquainted" conversation bounced around from "where do you live?" to "where are the good lunch spots?" to similarly benign, but superficially friendly, chit-chat topics. Soon, the subject of concerts was introduced. We were a bunch of guys with a twenty-year span separating our ages, but all sharing a love of music. Some of the younger guys related their experiences with Coldplay and Phish. I, of course, told of the many Grateful Dead shows I attended (albeit begrudgingly). Being the oldest of the group, I continued listing the various highlights of nearly forty years of concerts ranging from Alice Cooper and Elton John to Tony Bennett, The Clash, The Dead Milkmen and even Donny and Marie. The new guy chimed in, hoping to bond and offer a bit of camaraderie. Explaining that he grew up in the Philadelphia area and was happy to return after living elsewhere for many years, he waxed with sentimentality about his concert-going days as a rambunctious college student. He expounded on one particular performance at the Mann Center for the Arts, a pastoral, open-air venue situated within the gently sloping lawns of sprawling Fairmount Park. He claimed he attended a show by the venerable soft-rock troubadour James Taylor, he of mellow, Southern California, acoustic-driven tunes sung with a sweet, airy tenor. This guy told us about a typical James Taylor concert featuring a cavalcade of his easy-going hits like "Sweet Baby James," "Fire and Rain" and "Handy Man." Singable, hum-able, non-offense — everything his fans came to hear. 

"Then," our co-worker continued, "he announced that he and the band were taking a short break. And when he came back for a second set, they broke into 'Led Zeppelin's Physical Graffiti' and played the whole fucking album!" 

Our little group stood in silence, our eyes darting back and forth to one another, looking for confirmation that we all heard the same thing.

"Yeah, man, it was awesome!," he elaborated, "James Taylor and his band were fuckin' rockin' out and the crowd was getting pissed off. A lot of people started leaving, but he didn't care, man!" Now the new guy was morphing into Peter Fonda from Easy Rider, punctuating each statement with a drawn-out "man!

"My buddies and me were diggin' it, but most of the audience was really bummed. James and his band were wailin', man! Just banging out that Zeppelin!"

The "bullshit meter" in my head was about to explode! The lies were coming at me too fast and furious for me to keep up. Fortunately, our little session broke up and we began our workday. The first thing I did was scour Google for any possible pairing of the search terms "James Taylor" and "Led Zeppelin." My first search yielded nothing, as I had expected. I tried every combination of "James," "Taylor," "Led," "Zeppelin," "Physical," "Graffiti," "concert," "Mann," "Philadelphia." Nothing. Only single mentions of the individual words were returned in the search results. I put my searches aside and got some work done. Later in the day, however, I brought the conversation up to my co-workers once the "new guy" wasn't around. I posed the scenario again, pointing out the various tell-tale faults and inconsistencies in the story.

Would James Taylor, an established singer, risk alienating his fans with such a brazen, uncharacteristic performance? Why would he choose a Led Zeppelin album —  one that clocks in at nearly 90 minutes — to perform, in song sequence? Just supposing, for a second, that this actually did happen — would James Taylor have continued to perform an entire set of music by a band that is out of his genre, while his audience vacates the premises in droves? How come there is nothing about this unusual incident anywhere on any website? Hang on. I'll answer for you. It's because this didn't fucking happen!

I could not grasp the reasoning behind such an outlandish story. Was the "new guy" trying to impress us? Did he really think this was the proper route to take? Did it even occur to him that the facts of his anecdote could easily be debunked with a quick and effortless visit to the internet?

Once we got to know the "new guy," all of these questions were answered. It seemed that this lie was just a preview of what was to come. Two and a half years later, he was escorted off the premises.

Whether he realized it or not, my dad prepared me well.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

won't get fooled again

Remember that story I wrote about mixtapes last week? Well, let me tell you the story behind the story.

I got an email with the subject "Fun Blog." It was from someone named "Emma Powers." I don't know anyone named Emma Powers. It sounded blatantly fake to me, like the secret identity of a lesser-known superhero. Curiosity, however foolish, got the best of me, so I opened it. It was a note that opened with a few lines of generic praise for my blog. After firing off one or two compliments, the email turned into a sort-of marketing piece about a car rental service in San Francisco. Emma (if that is her real name) mixed personal anecdotes about her own choices of music with renting a car from her company for a road trip. To be honest, her ability to meld the two unrelated subjects was admirable. But, it was still a marketing ploy, and, as a marketer myself, I don't easily fall for marketing ploys — unless they come from Disney. Then, I am pretty much quivering putty. But Emma, while good, was a far cry from Disney. 

I quickly skimmed the email — which went on for several flowery paragraphs about the benefits of her company and the positives of 'NSYNC — until I located the gist of her disguised pitch. There is was, in paragraph three. She challenged me to write a blog post about my musical tastes and what I would choose as the soundtrack for a road trip. Having made her point, Emma summed things up with the corporate-approved-but-friendly-enough valediction "Cheers" followed by only her first name, as though we were old chums.

There's an old warning that I heard back in the days when newspapers were a viable thing. People used to say: "If you put your phone number in the paper, every nut in the world will call you." This was mostly in regards to classified ads. For the most part, that adage was right on the money. My parents were selling a car when I was in high school. My dad placed an ad for the car in the now-defunct Philadelphia Bulletin. The ad included our home phone number and, in addition to legitimate inquiries about the car, we got calls at all hours from every lunatic who knew how to operate a telephone but couldn't string four words together to form a sentence. My email address appears on the homepage of this blog and, just like our phone number in the paper, serves as an open invitation for every person and marketing company to send me correspondence.

I responded to Emma, first thanking her for the email. I thanked her for the kind words and then, in a effort to uncover an ulterior motive, asked  to which one of my blogs she was referring. I hit "send" and waited. Within a few minutes, Emma's reply surprisingly popped up in my "IN" box. She explained that she saw that I have a few blogs, but she had hoped for a post on this one "It's Been a Slice." So, I surmised, Emma was not a "bot." She seemed to now be a real person. So, I replied that I would take a shot at her suggestion and alert her when my story was posted. Again, I received an immediate reply from Emma. She offered thanks and said she was looking forward to reading my post.

I had recently taken a road trip with my family, so I started there and thought back to other car trips I had taken over the years. Satisfied with my little tale, I posted it and I included Emma in the courtesy email I send to my little mailing list when I post a new blog entry. (Wanna be included? Send me an email, like Emma did.)

A few days later Emma replied. Her email opened with this single sentence:
"I love the approach you took - it was so fun reminiscing about the "good old days" of making the original mix tapes!"
The remainder of the email was a multi-paragraph advertisement for her car-rental company, highlighting benefits, competitiveness, pricing and a slew of other phrases that were carefully chosen through a series of extensive marketing meetings. She asked if I would use her company's services again for a trip to Florida— even after I clearly stated that we drove in our own car. She went on to ask "What car would you choose, and why?" Justifying her question with the unrelated: "Like a travel playlist, does your car selection make or break a trip? Have you ever rented a car, only to get a vehicle you didn't prefer?" She capped the email with this direction:
"Let me know when you've had time to make those revisions, and thanks again for your awesome post! I loved reading it and can't wait to listen to some of your favorite suggestions!"
Revisions? Was she kidding? I'm not cub reporter Joshy Pincus and she isn't Perry White. I laughed while I typed this reply:
"While I certainly appreciate your subtle attempt at free advertising on my blog, that is something to which I cannot oblige. That said, if you or your company would like to negotiate a price for me to include mention of your product or services, I'd happily entertain an offer. Until then, my blog post will remain unchanged. Thanks for your interest."
I have yet to hear back from Emma. 

Thursday, March 17, 2016

only a memory

Six years ago, my friend Sam took his own life.

My wife and I were out. After coming home late, I ran upstairs to my computer to check my email before climbing into bed. I scrolled through several solicitations and offers from companies that I had made a single purchase and now would not free me from their marketing lists. I saw a notification of a comment on my blog (A nasty one, no doubt, from someone who I had offended. I get those a lot.) And then I saw one from a email address that I did not recognize. It was from my friend Sam's sister informing me that Sam had passed away the day before.

Sam was one of my closest friends from the time we met in high school. Over the years, Sam had moved around a lot — California, Arizona, Florida. Despite large gaps in the time between contact, he always let me know where he was and what he was doing. I had sent him a text message and a picture of my son and me as we shoveled a couple of feet of snow off of our driveway in February 2010. Sam, who living in West Palm Beach at the time, replied that it was time for me to move to the Sunshine State. I laughed as I read it out loud to my son. That was three weeks — almost to the day — before I received that email from Sam's sister.

Sam was cremated in Florida and a memorial service was held for friends and relatives still residing in the Philadelphia area. I reconnected with a bunch of friends that I had not seen since I attended high school over thirty years earlier. Although were all saddened by the occasion, we still managed to joyfully reminisce about the past and catch up on our lives since. A few of us even went out for dinner after the service for more camaraderie — both happy and sad. Afterwards, we all made plans and promises not to let so much time pass between us. We all exchanged contact information — cell phone numbers, email addresses, Linked In and Facebook locations. With so many more outlets of "getting in touch," we couldn't possibly stray from each other now.

When I got home I emailed a few people that I had seen at the service. I also did a quick "Google" search of some other friends that I did not see, but thought about. Within the next few months, I had lunch with two close high school friends and one from elementary school. My wife and I went to a friend's house where we spent a fun-filled evening with several classmates and their spouses  — some we had known, some we met for the first time. We invited those same couples to our annual "Night before Thanksgiving" gathering, although only one couple could make it. I was invited to the birthday party of a friend who was an usher at my wedding. 

And then, contact stopped.

Everyone, I suppose, went on with their lives — myself included. Business as usual. We fell back into our routines, our jobs, our daily responsibilities. I know that our lives have become more complicated, more demanding, more tumultuous, more everything since the carefree days of high school. Back then, we didn't have to worry about our children or our parents or if the mortgage would get paid on time. Our biggest concern was a date for Saturday or passing a history test.  Maybe youth fleeting away was more than Sam could take.

Although we are all busy with our lives, I hope they think about Sam as often as I do.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

on the road again

I used to make these things called "mixtapes." You know what they are. In the early days of transportable music, when the cassette was king, I would meticulously select ninety minutes of music as the soundtrack my travels. Whether it was my brief commute to work or a lengthy drive to the shore, the music was just as important as a packed lunch or even a change of clothes.

Making a mixtape was no simple task. It was more that just a bunch of songs crammed into two sides of a cassette. It was pacing. It was choosing the overall tone or theme of the tape. Which song would kick the whole thing off? Would I include more than one song by the same artist? Would I be listening to it alone? These were important decisions, along with determining the flow of the entire compilation. Proper timing was essential, as well. I had one tape that cut off The Clash's Magnificent Seven just after Joe Strummer delivered the line "Vacuum cleaner sucks up budgie." Unfortunately, every time I hear that song, I expect the same thing to happen and am surprised when the song continues. Then, of course, there was the actual recording process. Coordination of hitting the "record" button while trying to cue up the desired track on an album was a delicate ballet, both physical and aural.

I would make special mixtapes for long trips, like regular family journeys to Florida. Knowing my wife would be in the car changed the contents of mixtapes. With her unusual combined adoration for The Grateful Dead and 60s bubblegum pop, I would always take care to include a few extended hippie jams and at least one appearance of either Hitchin' a Ride or Oh Babe, What Would You Say. I was careful to avoid fast-forward bait like Led Zeppelin or David Bowie (except for Under Pressure, the Thin White Duke's collaboration with Queen. Curiously, Mrs. P disliked and rejected the majority of Queen's own catalog. Go figure?).

As technology progressed, the once-mighty cassette was soon unseated by the compact disc. Although the term "mixtape" stuck, there was no longer any actual tape involved and making them became a whole lot easier. Songs could be collected from any number of sources — your own CD library or a host of websites offering music files to downloaded — legal or otherwise. In the days of Limewire and Napster, music was available everywhere — quickly, conveniently and, best of all, it was free. I had thousands and thousands of songs in the digital mp3 format. I would make CD mixtapes nearly everyday, arranging and rearranging songs in a process that was as easy as dragging and dropping file names into a window on my computer. The CD program even told me how much time remained on my proposed collection, thus eliminating a repeat of the Magnificent Seven incident. I still come across these CDs in my car, usually stuffed under my seat. Every once in while, I'll pop one in to my dashboard CD player. It's like a time capsule of songs that were experiencing popularity for a fleeting period, now quaint and nearly forgotten. It's interesting to trace the progression of my musical tastes. Run-DMC, who made many appearances on early mixtapes, were entirely absent from later volumes abundant with Lyle Lovett and Brian Setzer. Squeeze and Elvis Costello gave way to Wilco and Beck.

My son, a music aficionado from the time he was a pre-teen, eventually took over duties of programming the family's in-car listening experience. His CD mixtapes were the precursor to his chosen profession. He is now a DJ on a Philadelphia radio station. It's cool to know that he honed his skills while hunched over the laptop in his bedroom.

Another victim of advancing technology, the CD has found itself falling out of favor, replaced by the purely electronic medium of the iPod. The "mixtape" was no longer confined to a ninety minute run time. Oh, and the "mixtape" had found itself with a new name — the "playlist." On a recent trip to Florida with my wife, my son and his girlfriend, our music was supplied by merely plugging my son's iPod into an adapter that, in turn, plugged into our 2003 Toyota's cassette deck. Although our car is a lagging a bit in the technology department, the irony is still apparent.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

I will be your father figure

My father was a simple hard-working guy of limited intellect and even less patience. He wanted dinner at 6. He wanted to watch television until he fell asleep in his chair. And he didn't want to be bothered. He was unflinchingly loyal to his job — who ever his employer was at the time — and treated his work as though he had the most important job ever.

He smoked from the time he was 18, sometimes elevating his cigarette intake to four packs per day. Upon his honorable discharge from naval service after World War II, he became an apprentice butcher, eventually working himself through the ranks until he reached an executive position in the main office of a chain of supermarkets. Despite a pretty decent salary, my father — the world's worst handler of money — always seemed to be behind the eight ball. He never saved a dime. He left bills unopened and ignored. I remember my mother meeting a workman from the gas company on our front lawn, as she scribbled out a satisfying check, thus stopping him and his giant wrench from shutting off our heat. 

My father took us on our last family vacation in 1968. After that, save for the occasional one-day jaunts to Atlantic City, my brother and I were on our own. It wasn't until we were in our teens that we went on what could be considered a proper vacation... at our expense, of course. At 18, we also paid our own way to further our education, wandering unprepared into a bank and arranging for our own student loans.

The once-successful supermarket chain that was my father's employer eventually went bankrupt and he found himself, once again, with a cleaver in his gnarled fist, back in a refrigerated workroom, surrounded by sides of beef. His life and career had gone full circle. After experiencing "stomach pains" that his incredibly high threshold for pain could no longer tolerate, he checked himself into a hospital. He fully intended to "take care of it" and get back to work in a few days. He was well aware that his illness was more severe than what a couple of swigs of Pepto Bismol could allay. However, he just ignored it, like he did all of those bills. And soon enough, just like the utility companies, death came to bite him on the ass. He passed away in 1993. He was in debt and his house was in a dreadful state of disrepair.

And, boy, what he has missed.

My son was six years old when my father died. My nephew was just seven months. They were small children with their entire lives ahead of them. Lives that — and I believe I speak for my brother as well  — would be better than ours. Isn't that every parents' dream?

I spoke to my nephew at length last Friday and then my son came over for a visit on Sunday morning. I began to reflect upon the conversation that I had with these two remarkable young men. I thought back to when they were born. They both had great childhoods, each filled with toys and birthday parties and travel and family. They excelled in their school careers, each emerging with enviable intellect and sharp wit. With voracious passion for their chosen profession, they each headed out into the world determined and destined to make their mark, no matter how large or small. My nephew entered the realm of politics in a position that has him hobnobbing in and around Capitol Hill with the likes of senators, congressmen and the occasional Vice President. My son is a disc jockey on a local Philadelphia radio station or, as he modestly states, "a minor local celebrity." In addition to on-air duties, he produces broadcast segments, mixes sound for performances and seeks out that elusive song just bubbling under the surface, waiting to break out. For fun, he pals around with members of local and nationally-recognized bands.

My father didn't quite grasp what my brother (at the time, editor-in-chief of a newspaper) and I (graphic designer) did for a living. And he would have been totally baffled by the career paths of his grandchildren. But I do believe he would have been proud. 

It makes me sad that he's not here to offer confirmation.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

so ya, thought ya, might like to go to the show

Once again, Mrs. Pincus scored some free tickets. This time, she got four seats to a Wednesday evening performance of Pippin, the Tony Award-winning musical that recently enjoyed a revival on Broadway. The touring company of Pippin was stopping at Philadelphia's esteemed and opulent Academy of Music for eight performances wedged into four days. Although I love going to concerts, I am not a fan of live theater, musical or otherwise. But, I am a fan of free tickets, so Mrs. P met me after work and after a quick dinner, we made our way over to the Academy which is just a few blocks from my center-city office.

I've mentioned previously on this blog, that I love old movies. Some of the old movies I love are musicals, including Oklahoma, Yankee Doodle Dandy, Best Foot Forward and Singin' in the Rain, to name just a few. But, there's something about watching a musical on stage that just rubs me the wrong way. Maybe it's the overly dramatic style that is so prevalent in stage productions. I don't like the exaggerated dancing and flamboyant gesturing. Yeah, I understand that performers were encouraged to project and enunciate to reach the folks in the last row of the highest balcony, but, these days, actors' voices are electronically amplified. They're wearing tiny microphones taped to their cheeks. They don't need to sing — nay screech! — at the top of their lungs. Yet, they do anyway.

We arrived early and stood in the small entrance area waiting for the doors to open. Other patrons gathered as well and, soon, the golden doors swung open with the help of a smartly-uniformed usher on the other side. The slightly larger (though still small) lobby was outfitted with a bar at either end and a makeshift merchandise table, already announcing that the soundtrack CD was sold out. This was only the second night of performances. I guess that's good for them, although, for the life of me, I didn't know a single song from Pippin. Not that I am an expert on Broadway musicals, but I know a few songs from a few shows. I asked my wife if Pippin was the one that featured "Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord"?

She answered, "No. That's Godspell."

"How about Day by Day?," I pressed.

"No. That's Godspell, too.," she replied.

She's the same age
as your grandma.
Well, I was fresh out of songs with which to associate the show I was about to see. In my defense, Stephen Schwartz composed both Godspell and Pippin, so I wasn't really that far off. Actually, the only things I knew about Pippin was it originally starred the multi-talented Ben Vereen and Irene Ryan, fresh off her nine-season run as "Granny" on The Beverly Hillbillies. Ryan had performed the role of Pippin's feisty grandmother until she suffered a stroke on stage and was hospitalized. She passed away six weeks later. Outside of that, everything I was about to see would be a surprise.

At the front of the lobby, between the two massive theater entrances, there was a large sign that listed the players for this evening's performance. Most of the names were unfamiliar, until I spotted John Rubinstein. I knew the name from the mid-70s TV drama Family, a show that made Kristy McNichol a household name. Turns out, John originated the title role of Pippin on Broadway and was now playing the character's father. A little further down the list was Adrienne Barbeau, the lovely costar of the controversial All in the Family spin-off Maude. Adrienne played star Bea Arthur's staunch feminist daughter "Carol." Although I hated the show, I watched it. I watched it for the same reason every teenage male watched it — and that reason was Adrienne Barbeau. She was a voluptuous 27 year old at the show's premiere and joined the ranks of Farrah Fawcett and Lynda Carter as TV sex symbols. Later, she made her motion picture debut in then-husband John Carpenter's atmospheric popcorn thriller The Fog. She followed that as part of the ensemble cast of Escape from New York, once again under the direction of Carpenter. Never one to take herself too seriously, Ms. Barbeau's campy tour de force came in the horror anthology Creepshow, a movie that poor Mrs. Pincus watched for the first time through fingers laced across her tightly-clenched eyelids. Adrienne played Hal Holbrook's shrewish spouse who, after a series of imagined slaughters at the hands of her henpecked husband, finally gets her blood-soaked comeuppance. There! — is that sufficient gushing about Adrienne Barbeau? Needless to say, I'm a fan.
"Just call me 'Billie.' Everyone does."

We had to take a tiny elevator up to the level where our seats were. We filed into the darkened third balcony and made our way down the narrow aisle to row E, where we (thanks to extra tickets) were able to stretch ourselves and our bulky winter coats across four seats. From our vantage, the theater was beautiful! White lacquered wood trim, deep red velvet seats, regal gold accents topped with dramatic gold statuary. The stage, however, was a small, distant speck, skirted by, what I thought was a collection of children's dolls, but turned out to be the orchestra.

We perused the Playbill until the lights blinked and dimmed and the show began. The opening number, "Magic to Do" (which, I admit, I had to look up because I forgot, as I did all of the musical numbers), kicked things off. It was everything I hate about Broadway musicals. It was loud, with overly-theatrical gestures and a paper-thin, yet unnecessarily convoluted story, bolstered by dancing and jumping and tumbling and actors trying to out-act each other, even walking into the audience at one point. The next two and a half hours progressed in much the same way. Was it horrible? No, not really. Was it unforgettable? Hardly. Was it entertaining? Sure! The current incarnation of Pippin has been enhanced with Cirque du Soleil-style acrobatics and elaborate stage illusions that didn't exist in its initial run. Was I glad the tickets were free? You betcha!

About midway through the first act, Pippin's grandmother was introduced. As "Berthe," Adrienne Barbeau looked stunning in a form-fitting bustier. She displayed the same irresistible exuberance that she did at the beginning of her career, sending everyone in the theater to secretively "Google" her age. She is 70 and she brazenly defies that age. (Am I gushing again?) Incredibly, Irene Ryan, who originated the role, was also 70. Apparently, "70" was different in the 70s. Not content with just belting out her featured solo with a strong, bravado-filled voice, Adrienne doffed her flimsy outer robe and joined a muscular young man ten feet above the stage, where she was inverted, her shapely legs entwined around her spotter's torso. She sang the last verse of her song while swinging upside-down, to the delight of the entire house. May I reiterate — this woman is 70! Of course, my seat was approximately six miles from the stage, yet from my perspective, Ms. Barbeau has still got it.

When it was all over, Mrs. P and I left the theater, braving a wicked downpour that was atypical for late February in Philadelphia. We hustled through what was essentially a car wash to the train station to head home. As we rode on the train, we talked about the show. I decided, while it was indeed entertaining, it certainly wasn't memorable. But, it was free.

The next day, in true celebrity-obsessed, Josh Pincus fashion, I left a message on Adrienne Barbeau's Facebook page, referencing her overbearing character in Creepshow. Within minutes, I can only assume while grabbing a few moments of rest in her Philadelphia hotel room, Ms. Barbeau replied. I rightfully interpreted a sly tone into her reply.
(click to enlarge)
Obviously, she's a good sport. (End gushing.)

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

red-headed stranger

This may come as a shock to you, but..... I am not a natural redhead. I know, I know — I should have prefaced my opening sentence with SPOILER ALERT, as is common internet etiquette, but, let's be honest, the color of my hair is pretty suspect.

Every six or so weeks, I find myself at a hair salon covered with a big vinyl smock. A young lady slathers my head with a mixture from a tube selected from the far end of their wall-length pallet of hair color. My particular shade comes from a supply that goes untouched between my month-and-a-half visits. After approximately an hour (including the application and a brief, motionless sit under the artificially-intense heat of a dryer plus a trim of what little hair I have left), the look that has become familiar to family, friends and coworkers returns and everything is back to normal. No more gray-tinged roots to throw off the delicate balance and long-time branding that is Josh Pincus.

One recent morning, I was at the train station at the end of my suburban street, awaiting another late train to take me into Philadelphia for work. I removed my cellphone from my pocket and punched up the inaccurate app that was created by SEPTA, the entity that operates the public transportation services in Southeastern Pennsylvania. Reading a report of a mere "two minutes behind schedule," I shoved the phone back into my pocket and waited. Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a glimpse of bright red-orange on the station platform about ten feet away from me. I turned my head in the direction of the fiery color. Leaning against a railing that runs the perimeter of the wooden-planked platform, was a tall woman in a beige cloth coat, her gloved hand gripping the handle of a large, leather briefcase. Upon first look, she fit the description of thousands of women seen everyday in the workforce. Except this woman's head was crowned with a coiffure of blazing crimson. A startlingly unnatural color. A color that was very familiar to me.

The woman at the salon who colors my hair has assured me, on many occasions, that I am the sole consumer of that hue. Sometimes, we have even joked about it, sarcastically wondering why anyone else would ever want that color. But now, here I was standing less than a bus-length from someone who has raided my personal hair dye stash.

I thought for sure that everyone at the train station was staring at me and then shifting their eyes to the woman with the briefcase. It was different and way more uncomfortable than showing up at a wedding wearing the exact same dress as the mother of the bride. I knew there was whispering and covert pointing going on behind my back. "They must be related!," I imagined was the exchange in hushed tones between passengers standing along the outside darkened corners of the stone station building. The woman with the briefcase just stood, every-so-often turning her glance towards the empty train tracks, anticipating the arrival of the 7:52. She was oblivious to the silent mockery that flowed through the assembled crowd.

The train was taking forever to arrive. All the while, I could hear murmurs of conversation, snippets of which included "hair," "redhead," color" and "unnatural." I didn't want to turn around. I couldn't. Although I see most of these people every single day, I don't really know any of them. But there they were, passing judgement on me and my choices about my appearance. I couldn't approach the redheaded woman with the briefcase. I didn't know her either. Besides, that would just be weird.

Suddenly, the train pulled into view and chugged up to a stop at the station. Everyone made their way into a rough, irregular queue line and began to board. The woman with the briefcase took her place in line a few folks behind me.

The platform was now empty. Everyone who was waiting was now on the train.

And of course, there was no conversation about my hair, the woman with the briefcase's hair, or anything else related to the two of us.

At least, I don't think there was.